John Coltrane. Kenny G. Lisa Simpson. These famous names play a mean golden horn, but despite their sexy skills, the saxophone hasn't always been the coolest craft on the block.
"When I first started Big Gigantic, there was no sax [in electronic music]," says Big G's sexy sax man, Dominic Lalli. He and his drummin' buddy, Jeremy Salken, have crafted a cultlike following with their genre-fusing dance tunes and sensory-overloaded live performances. The Boulder, Colorado band has become a national festival favorite, but getting there was no walk in the park.
"A lot of people were like, 'What's going on? Why is this guy doing this?'?" Lalli says. "We just stuck with our thing, and now it's like everyone is playing sax."
Maybe not everyone, but the trend of merging live instruments with electronic production is definitely on an upswing. Michigan's GRiZ is doing it. Fellow Boulderite Pretty Lights does it. Even Miami has gotten into the act with local duo Bedside.
It's a good time to be a
"[At the beginning], I was a saxophone player who just got a computer and was writing music on it," he says. "I've been trying to figure that out this whole time as I'm going along... I just feel so much more confident in what I have in my head and being able to actually make that a reality."
Approach one of the band's rabid fans, and they'll soon say Big Gigantic hasn't released any new music in about a year. The band survives on its huge live reputation, but it spent the better part of 2015 holed up in a studio, working on a game-changing album that Lalli hopes will shed new light on the Big Gigantic project.
Armed with a master's degree in jazz playing and composition, Lalli has the chops to do a whole lot more than stick a groovy bassline under an improvised sax solo. With this latest LP, he has broadened the band's scope, collaborating with tons of singers, songwriters, rappers, and other musicians to build a variety of tracks in hopes of capturing every mood imaginable — something to drive to, something to dance to, something to have sex to. It's Lalli's vision come to
"I want it to be really special," he says. "I don't want it to be just like this or just like that or anything else. I want it to be me and us and what we love."
The LP is almost finished, but Lalli isn't ready to give away much detail. He does promise that singles from the album will start coming out in a matter of weeks, and by the time the duo takes the stage at Okeechobee Fest this weekend, some of that new material will definitely make its way into the live set — all-new music in a new setting. It's like the band's birthday present to the nascent festival.
"I heard the site is really incredible and the lineup is fucking killer," Lalli says of Okeechobee. "I was at a bunch of first festivals, and I love it. The vibe is killer. There are no expectations."
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No doubt Big Gigantic will be one of the biggest draws of the weekend, performing for an hour and 15 minutes in its purest element. It's the kind of place that got the two from lowly experimental dreamers to festival showstoppers, and though the duo will unveil fresh tunes, it's nothing the guys can't handle.
"I'm completely sober every time I play, but it's like I'm on drugs up there," Lalli laughs. "There are so many people that I just don't even know [what I'm feeling]. I'm having fun out there. There's a lot of energy, but then I definitely try to relax, because playing my horn is all about relaxing. The more relaxed I am, the better I play. So it's a mix of that kind of a thing. But it's so much fun. It's the most fun ever."
8:15 p.m. Saturday, March 5, at the NOW Stage at Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival, Sunshine Grove, Okeechobee, Florida. Tickets cost $259.50 to $275 plus fees. Visit okeechobeefest.com.